Mr. Harrigan’s Phone review – average Stephen King adaptation worth watching

By Romey Norton
Published: October 5, 2022 (Last updated: January 18, 2024)


I expected cringe and cheese but instead got first-class acting and a layered story. 

This review of the Netflix film Mr. Harrigan’s Phone does not contain spoilers.

It’s officially Halloween season which means it’s the month for horror films to get our hearts and minds racing with fear. As a huge fan of Halloween and the supernatural, I enjoy anything from the seriously scary to classic horror comedy. Mr. Harrigan’s Phone is the latest, more gentle, psychological, and technical horror to hit our streaming services, and is written and directed by John Lee Hancock, based on the short story, part of the four-novella collection by horror writer Stephen King.

We follow the story of a young boy called Craig (played by Jaeden Martell) who befriends an elderly billionaire John Harrigan (played by Donald Sutherland) and gives him a mobile phone. When Harrigan dies, Craig hides his phone in his casket, and the two communicate from beyond the grave. In true classic horror story-telling, we have a coming-of-age story where a young boy is able to overcome grief and loss through a natural and then supernatural friendship. This story isn’t just about their relationship, there are a few spooky deaths thrown in there as well. 

Like good old Stephen King, this script has been written to reflect his style of character building. His works typically focus on the characters’ psychology and their development, their emotions, rather than action and instant gratification, and this requires excellent acting skills.

Donald Sutherland and Jaeden Martell give a fantastic performance, building a kind and caring relationship through the love of literature to a point that when Mr.Harrigan passed away, I was almost in tears. They have some beautiful, heart-felt, sentimental moments together, and it really drives the emotions of the characters and story. Both are easy to watch, filling their scenes with intrigue and charm. Their relationship reminded me so much of mine and my late grandfather’s, as he taught me about literature and I taught him about technology. This grandfather-grandson relationship they build is refreshing to see.

Craig’s (Jaeden) character development is heartfelt and heartbreaking as he deals with his grief, loss, and high school. Craig narrates us through the story, taking us along his journey and his inner thoughts and feelings at the time. His voice is smooth and charismatic and aids the scenes rather than distracting. A very nice touch for me. 

What I really loved was the subtle hint behind the story and the political themes it carries, how technology and mobile phones can consume us and blur our reality, how the more it develops, the more we become slaves to it, and the potential effects it can have after we die. The concept of Mr. Harrigan’s phone sending messages after he died isn’t all too unbelievable. When people die now, their social media pages stay active, and if someone logs in, they may show as online and this can warp perception and cause anguish. This really made me think about life and death and how I personally interpret it all. 

The film is well shot with warming autumnal colors that are comforting and also sultry enough to create a spooky, cold vibe. The music is ominous throughout; it’s understated and helps build the drama. The ending is unexpected, a little slow, and a bit boring for me, but then again, it is based on a short story. There is a lovely message about not depending on material things and enjoying life at the moment, and living your best life while you can. With a runtime of one hour and forty-six minutes, I would add this film to my list if you’re looking for something soft and easy to watch. 

What did you think of the Netflix film Mr. Harrigan’s Phone? Comment below.

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Movie Reviews, Netflix, Streaming Service